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MBA vs CFA® charter: which is better?

Should I take up studies for the CFA® charter or an MBA certification?

This is a very popular question among university students, fresh graduates and working professionals who have just started their careers. Sure, both finance-related certifications seem to rival each other in terms of pay and desirability by employers, but the right choice depends mainly on two factors: your time and money available.

How urgently do you need this certification? Are you able to stop work entirely? A reputable MBA usually requires you to stop work for at least 2 years, but takes a shorter overall time to complete.

On the other hand, the CFA® charter is far more gentle on your existing career path.

The CFA® Program involves passing 3 exams - Level I, II and III. The shortest time possible to complete this is 1.5 years, but can go up to 4 years for some candidates. Candidates are also required to have 4 years of working experience. This, combined with a Level III exam pass, will grant you the charter.

While the Program usually recommends 300 hours of study before the exam, this can be scheduled into weekday nights and weekends, enabling you to keep your full time job while pursuing the certification. It also allows final year university undergraduates to start early.

Because it does not require you to stop work, working professionals can amass the required 4 years of experience while studying for the exam. Employers in the finance field who know the process of earning the charter will also see your commitment in balancing work and studies as a reflection of good discipline and drive.

How much money are you willing to spend on getting a certification? An MBA in Singapore can cost between S$60,000 to S$100,000 for 2 years of study. In addition, you will have to forgo 2 years' worth of salary, which can range from S$60,000 to $200,000 worth of earnings.

In comparison, a committed and diligent student who does self-study for the recommended 300 hours or more, spends about S$5,000 on books and exam registration to clear all 3 Levels of the CFA® Program.

Those who require more assistance, prefer being guided with tips and explanations, or like having structured classes to ensure they revise, can opt for a exam prep course. This group spends between S$8,500 to S$10,000 to clear all 3 levels of the CFA® Program.

Both groups can continue to earn their regular salary and promotions, bonuses, etc. if they choose to work while studying for the exams.

However, it is important to note that all MBA students will graduate from the course with the MBA title, but a CFA® charter is harder to earn. Less than half the candidates will pass the exams at each of the 3 levels. Hence, if you are choosing the CFA® charter, it is important that you have the discipline to do self-study, or sign up with an exam prep school (like ours!) if you need some extra help.

Having read this, did you make up your mind? Which is better - a CFA® charter or MBA? Let us know in the comments!

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